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Football: SAINTS BOSS: WE'VE NOTHING TO FEAR AFTER DROGS DEFEAT.

Byline: By MICHAEL SCULLY

ST PAT'S boss Johnny McDonnell believes his side need feel no shame having faced early title rivals Drogheda United - and lost.

The Saints and Drogheda are level at the top of the eircom Premier Division on 19 points - an impressive seven clear of the chasing pack already - and are the League's in-form sides.

They met for the first time this season on Monday at Richmond Park and Drogheda edged it after extra-time in the Setanta Sports Cup semi-finals.

Although Drogheda were missing a host of players through injury, McDonnell says his side won't be affected by their first defeat of the campaign.

In fact, he believes it bodes well for what's ahead. "If we were run around the pitch by Drogheda we'd say we had a lot to do, but I was very positive about the whole thing," the Saints supremo said.

"We know we played well and didn't let anyone down. We were very committed.

"We're still top of the League and we have four more goals than Drogheda in the League.

"We didn't get damaged too much. Okay... we could have got to the final, but we didn't lose any points in the League.

"It was very, very positive. If Drogheda are going to be the team that win the League and you push them that far and go so close, we're very, very happy."

In fact, McDonnell has revealed he would actually have been happy had Stuart Byrne scored the injury time penalty awarded to Drogheda at the end of normal time.

Having comprehensively beaten Sligo Rovers in the League on Saturday evening, Pat's were running on empty by the end of 90 minutes on Monday against Paul Doolin's side - who beat Shamrock Rovers almost 24 hours earlier.

"We probably could have done with Stuey scoring the peno, if that makes any sense, because I really didn't want it to go to extra-time with the travelling and Friday night's match coming up," McDonnell pointed out.

"In the group stages we had to play a Saturday and a Monday, and I think other teams did as well - but in a two-horse race, we played Saturday at five o'clock and Drogheda had a full day extra.

"Then it goes to extra time, and we had fellahs coming from work today as well.

"I'm not giving out, but it was an unfair advantage. But I thought we played well, we could have had it wrapped up in the first half and it would have been a different game."

McDonnell compared Mark Quigley's first-half rocket off the bar that appeared to cross the goal-line to Geoff Hurst's World Cup final strike - and he claimed that had Pat's been more clinical they would have qualified for the decider, against Cork City or Linfield, at the first attempt.

He added: "I'm disappointed for the lads, they played very well and we could have got the goals in the first half.

"But Drogheda are a good team, a strong team. We spoke about it before the match, they just keep playing and playing no matter what happens. They have the experience."

Next up for Pat's is a tricky League tie with Shamrock Rovers Midfielder Michael Foley, a substitute on Monday, twisted his knee in extra-timeand while Joseph Ndo could finally return after his ankle problems, it's more likely he'll be back the following week.

CAPTION(S):

PROUD: Johnny McDonnell; ROCKET: Mark Quigley
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Apr 25, 2007
Words:572
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